Jon Oliva interview

"When Criss passed away Savatage became the Trans Siberian Orchestra. We just didn't have the balls at that time to change the name"

18/07/2013 @ 16:27
With the release of the first ever solo album of his carreer, "Raise The Curtain", we had the chance to talk with the mighty Jon Oliva. In a conversation that lasted about an hour we talked about the story behind the new album, his brother Criss, Matt Laporte’s pass, the Trans Siberian Orchestra and even for his metaphysical views about life and death. But what impressed me the most was the sincerity in his answers about Savatage and the possibility of a future reunion. But enough from me, let’s hear the man himself, mr. Jon Oliva... All hail the Mountain King!

Jon OlivaHello Jon, how are you?
I'm doing wonderful my friend. How are you sir?

I'm fine too. Where are you at the moment?
I'm in Florida and the weather is hot as fuck (laughs)! Think of the hottest day ever in Athens and it's twice hot here right now.

No shit...Ok let's start with the questions. Why did it take you so long to record your first solo album? I know that was in your plans for more than ten years...
Well, I've got to be honest with you. When Matt Laporte passed away it was a very-very dramatic and difficult time for me. He was very close to me, like a brother and when he died, he died very suddenly. No one had an idea that this was going to happen and it was something that happened over a night. As a matter of fact, I was the last person to sent him a text message an hour before he passed away. It was very sad for me and to be honest with you, after that I didn't know what I wanted to do. It took me two months to sit down and even think about music. I was like "Oh man, this is just like when Criss died" or when our producer with early JOP Greg died. All these deaths man...I didn't know what I wanted to do. And then there's a good friend of mine, his name is Dan and he wrote some of the songs of the album with me. He has a very beautiful home studio. When I found Dan I had time sleeping and I was getting up at 7 - 8 o' clock in the morning and I was driving my poor wife crazy and she was telling me "Get out of here, go out". So, I was driving down to Dan's house at 8 ' clock, because he was also very close to Matt, I think he might have been closer to him than me. His mom was also passed away a month or so before, so I was going down there and we would just sit there and talk and look at videos and all of the sudden – as he’s a keyboard player - after we had loosen up he said "Hey Jon, do you want to listen some stuff I wrote and tell me if it's any good" and I was like "Oh shit. All right man", but then after I heard it I said "Wow, this is fucking good" and you know I had written some music that fits perfectly with this. And I have to tell you he is just a keyboardist, but he was never in a band, he was a doctor his whole life and he is just a guy who plays great keyboards. So, he said why don't we write some songs together and you know what... this became some kind of therapy. So, I decided to put some songs together to see what happens and I guess that distracted us from the grieving period. Somehow, it reminded me of what happened after my brother passed away and I started doing "Handful Of Rain". I had a nervous breakdown right in front of Paul O' Neil and his wife and Paul was like "Jon you've got to do something" and we went in and started working “Handful Of Rain” which was kind almost the same as this album. There was no band there it was just me and Paul in the studio. I played all the drums, all the bass, all the rhythm guitars, all the keyboards and then Zack came in  the end to sing and I got Alex Scholnik from Testament in and played solos on a few songs. Rather than that, “Handful Of Rain” is almost exactly the same as this album is. It was just really me and this friend of mine Dan and Chris Kinder who is with me in JOP. We kind bonded the three of us. Man, I was so fucked up, all my friends were dying and I was like "What the fuck is going on" and we just started putting things together. I went through all my tapes I had with Criss and I came to the last two tapes that I had and ironically there was the earliest songs that Criss and I ever wrote together. That was before "City Beneath The Surface”, before "Sirens", before we even had the name Avatar. These were song we wrote in our grandma’s basement. We really didn't know what we were doing. I was like "Oh my god" when I found those tapes. There was, also, a lot of garbage there, but there were certainly great riffs and then I started to think that I've got to do something with those riffs. I've got to make this riff a song and I started doing that. That's when I decided to do this as a solo record and I said to Criss Kinder to come and play drums on half of this album, because you know I'm not that good of a drummer. I played drums in 3 or 4 songs, which I can't ever remember right now. My friend Dan is an incredible organ player like Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman and I was like "Man I really need a different sound on the album, I don't want to sound like Savatage, I don't want to sound like JOP" and bringing Dan in to help me with keyboards brought us to that thing". It was different to me and I decided to play all the fucking lead guitars. I always wanted to be a lead guitar player! In Savatage we had Criss Oliva who always said "Brother you are not going to play lead guitar" (laughs). You were lucky if he even let you hold the guitar. It was like going back to these days when Criss wasn't that good. He was just like me. We were good rhythm guitar players, but we weren't great soloists. He wasn't a great soloist at that time. And I was like I can do this and it became like a test to me to do this album and I said "No! I'm playing the fucking bass, I'm playing all the guitars, I'm doing this so, Criss I need you to play some drums and Dan I need you to help me with some organ shit" and that’s basically what it was. It was me doing everything and with my 2 friends coming in and helping me out when I need some extra help when I couldn’t do it on my own".

Oliva - Raise The CurtainNow, you mentioned that some of the stuff are really old and I can't help but mentioning that "Father Time" is basically "Minus Love" from the old days...
Yeah! Yes! You are the first of all the interviews I've done so far who picked that out. So this riff that starts that song... I had on a tape 21 seconds of Criss playing that riff that opens the song. I got 21 seconds of that and then it stopped. And then I had the song "Minus Love" from the early days and I was "Oh wait a minute I have a great idea, what if I take Criss’ riff and mix it with this song, use the both of them and make a song out of that two"? And that's what I did. You know the greatest song on this album called "The Witch"... it has this beautiful intro that my friend Dan actually wrote and then the first riff you hear from the electric guitar [editor : he plays the riff with his mouth]. The great story about that is that Criss suggested we bought a double neck guitar like Jimmy Page. I’ll never forget that we put on the strings on that guitar and we didn't know how to tune it. We were like "how you tune a double neck guitar?" So, finally, after we got it in tune, Criss turned his amp on and I was like “Wait a minute, wait a minute” and I turned on the tape recorder. The very first thing he played on that double neck guitar was the riff in the beginning of "The Witch" [editor: he sings it again with his mouth and this time he is going even higher in notes]. That was the first riff he plaid on that guitar and probably the third riff Criss ever wrote in his life. Isn’t that special? That’s the third riff Criss ever wrote in his life. And I made a song out of it...

Jon OlivaIt seems like the past meets the present somehow...
It’s a little bit of everything. The song that Criss has on this record, his contribution, is more special. He had contribution in all JOP records. But, those were all songs that we wrote for  Savatage or stuff that were outtakes from "Streets" or "Gutter Bullet". This stuff on this record no one’s ever heard before. Ever. These are the very first things we ever wrote together and I made songs out of it. So, to me if you are a Criss Oliva or Savatage fan and you have all the CD and you have all the demos you have to have this album. Because, if you don’t, then you’re not a true fan. Because, this is the earliest stuff that Criss ever wrote. I mean these two songs "Father Time" and "The Witch", those two riffs are probably the two or the four of the first riffs he ever wrote in his life.

The album is obviously influenced by progressive rock music, musicals, great bands like Styx and Beatles in a few tracks and has also a few songs in the vein of Savatage and of course some ballads too. Is that all or there is something that I miss?
No you got it right. You nailed that right on the head. You can hear on this album all my influences and it goes from song to song. For instance, the first song "Raise The Curtain" is influenced by ELP, as me and Dan are huge fans. We were trying to play guitar on that and it didn’t work and I said let’s play something that is totally different and we came up up with it and it happened and it was brilliant.  And then we go to "Soul Chaser" witch sounds very much with something I was doing in Savatage. So, the whole concept was to give something to the fans that there are used to, but I also wanted them to know from the start that this record is different. It’s not the same. It’s got stuff that was written a long time ago and I had to work very hard to turn it into something that is current and sounds like something that was from 1975 or 1976 and that was the challenge, plus playing all the instruments myself. That was very difficult but it was great. It was e great experience and I’m very proud for this record. Especially, the fact that people will get to know how me and Criss started. These songs are the first songs that we wrote together, before "The Dungeons Are Calling", "Sirens" and "Power Of The Night" and I think this is very important and people have to check it out.

Jon OlivaThe album showcases your love for progressive rock bands of the ‘70s with the pompus keyboards. Was this music very influential for you and maybe one of the secrets in Savatage’s unique character?
Savatage’s style really developed from those bands, but I have to say that it was not until Paul ‘O Neil came to the picture, which was in "Hall Of The Mountain King". Before that we didn’t really know what we wanted to do, because we were young kids and everyone we were involved with was reaping us of, we had no fucking money and we just didn’t know. Paul ‘O Neil came and the first thing he did was reach out to his pocket and give me and Criss 50.000$ and said that we didn’t have to pay him back and that all that he wanted to do was to be a part of the band. He wanted to write and co-produced with us and blah blah blah... And we were like “Who the fuck is this guy?” I’m telling you that Paul also bought us new equipment, put us in a rehearsal place and said “You guys are so great. You don’t know it, because no one gave you the opportunity to do what you can do. Now, I want you to go into that place and write with me a real Savatage album” and that’s how we wrote "Hall Of The Mountain King". The album we did before was "Fight For The Rock", so I don’t really need to talk about that. The difference between those two albums just shows to the fans how important to the Savatage was Paul ‘O Neil. He came in and pushed me and Criss and he said “No, play the piano Jon, there’s no rule saying that you can’t. Let’s try it and if it doesn’t work we don’t use it”. No one ever told me that kind of shit before. Every one before was like “Hurry up, hurry up you’ve got to finish because they were stealing all our fucking money and we didn’t know. We were some kids from Florida man, we had no fucking idea (laughs). We were guessing that this is how music business is. And it was brutal. It was Paul that said “No you’re not going to break up, we are going to do this”. He gave us enough money to pay our bills for two years. Then he bought us new instruments and 4-track recorders and put us in a basement to write the three of us together. I remember the first songs we came up with was "Strange Wings" and "24 Hours Ago". I said that this one was a very good start and that he knows what’s going on. And that’s how it started and people forget all that stuff. My thing with this album was to just go back and show everyone were Criss and I started from. And thank to people like you who are going to print me saying this is some of the first things we ever wrote. You guys remember the riff from the "Hall..." or "Sirens", but before those there was these riffs. The "Father Time" and the "The Witch" riff. The bonus acoustic track, that was the first tone we wrote on an acoustic guitar Criss and I for the first time in our lives. We sit down together and wrote that song.

Jon OlivaIn the song "Ten Years" the lyrics seems to be quite tense and somehow autobiographical. Is this true? Are there any other songs in this vein?
Well yeah. This album especially this song "Ten Years", if you listen to the lyrics, I’m singing about myself. When I say that line “I live these lonely days, ten years have slept away, I don’t know where did they go”, I guess it’s as you get older and I’m now in my early fifties, time seems to move very quickly, like the older you get the faster things move. I guess it’s not like I do have to pay taxes the whole time and they fucked us (laughs)... As a matter of fact it’s like someone said “let’s make sure that the last half part of your life goes by really quick” (laughs). So, that’s where the lyrics came from, I was just saying to myself “Where the last ten years go? They just flew by and it was like nothing... what the fuck?” So, if you listen to the lyrics I’m singing about being on tour and how I’ve seen so many places, so many faces, cause I met a lot of weird people, especially in Greece. I tell that, you guys are some weird people. You know Texas club?

I‘ll never go back to that place ever again! (laughs) They are crazy there. I’m complimenting those people because I met some people in Greece that they were so fucking nice to me and so cool and had opened their house to me. The people in Greece I love them so much, they are so kind to me. There were people bringing me pictures of Criss and things like that and they really touched my heart. So, I feel like making fun of you guys, because you’re like my friends. So, Greece to me is the ultimate place to go. It’s the greatest and sweetest people and really smart music fans. You guys know your music there and I respect that very much.

Jon OlivaIs "Can't Get Away" somekind of tribute to John Lennon's "Jealus Guy"?
Well sure. John Lennon was my hero. John Lennon started me playing music. The Beatles started me playing music. But, Lennon was always my favorite because he was like the bad boy of the Beatles. When I was grown up I was kind of a troublemaker and I got in a lot of fights and a lot crazy shit when I was at school and John Lennon became my hero, my mentor. I love all the Beatles. Paul McCartney he is a genius piano player, but a very important part of my life was reading about John and listening to his interviews and his views about life. And I tell you, when my brother died I read this interview of Lennon answering to a question of what he thinks about death and he said “I like to live to a nice old age, but I’m not afraid of dying because I don’t believe in it. To me it’s like checking out one hotel and checking in to another”. And that stuck in my head since the day I read that. And if you think about it, it’s kind of like that. We are here right now but when we die, what happens? To me it feels the same way. It’s time to live this hotel which we’re living now and check into another. If you think about that makes you feel about life and death a little bit easier.

Yeah, but the thing is that I don’t believe there is another hotel waiting for us to check in Jon.
Sure some people don’t believe that. But if you believe in your mind, that this is just a step and when you’re leaving you go to another step, then when you do leave here, you will go to another step?. If you don’t believe in that and you just believe that this is the only hotel you’re going to sit in, you’re going to be floating around in darkness, in a limbo. You’ve got to make your mind think “This isn’t the only place. When I leave I’m going to another place, in another mission and have another task. Maybe you’re gonna be a plumber or an electrician or maybe you deliver babies, but I’m not thinking that it’s only this. When I go, I go somewhere else. At least, I believe that.

Jon OlivaSo, about the cover of the album now, It feels like a tribute to Criss from having his guitar there and to your great love which is apparently the piano. What’s the story behind it?
The cover idea came up with me thinking about the fact that this is the last album with Criss’ stuff. I wanted to symbolize my love for him and show to the fans that this album is more about me and him and our relationship than it is about anything else. It doesn’t matter how great this album is. What matters is that this is about Criss and me. My commitment to him, as an older brother was to make sure that all the fans who we love very much have to hear everything that Criss ever wrote. That was the whole idea and that’s why I did the cover like that. I was like “Let’s have Criss’ guitar with my piano and the light coming down from heaven. And that’s why I did it like this. When you get the CD you’ll see that there’s a collage with photos. The thing is that my wife had a thousand of photos and told me see wanted to put a collage of them in the middle of the CD booklet. It has pictures of me and Criss being ten years old, up to the "Edge Of Thorns" period. So, my wife sat down with my son’s girlfriend and they put this collage together which is beautiful. I had it shot and that’s the centerfold and when you looking than you are going to see some pictures that no one ever has seen before. These are some personal photos that my wife had, that haven’t been out in magazines before. There a couple that you might have seen on magazines, but not many. It just shows the whole history and it sums up the whole thing.

So as you mentioned before this album is a must have for the dedicated Savatage fan but...
You are not a Savatage or Criss Oliva fan if don’t have that album. When I discovered Black Sabbath, I loved Tony Iommi’s guitar playing and I’m glad that I went back and listen to the stuff when they were called Earth. I was like “Fuck I heard all the other stuff, but I have to hear from these guys the first shit the ever did” and then I could say “Wow! Now I see how they developed”. That’s the importance of that CD. You get to hear how Criss and I developed as songwriters. How we went from "Father Of Time" type of vibe to "City Beneath The Surface". You’re going to be “Wow, this is wow! These guys went into a drastic change”.

Jon OlivaSo except from Savatage’s fans do you think that there is another audience that your album is addressed to?
I don’t know how to answer this. All I know is that the people have to give it a chance. It’s got a lot of different styles in it, a lot of different vibes. The guitar playing I think is the closest to Criss’ that you ever going to hear because Criss and I learned how to play together. I was never the soloist that Criss was. I couldn’t do the hammer on and shit, but rhythm guitar wise and melody wise, Criss And I came from the same school. And when you listen to the album and especially the "Ten Years" song and the theme I play behind the chorus you can hear that I’m doing that Criss Oliva thing [editor: once again he sung the rhythm with his mouth]. For songs like that, I went back and studied his little things that he would add to Savatage songs and I dropped them in into this album. It took me months and months and months to be able to do that. I worked harder on this album than any album I did after "Streets". So, to me I will feel very upset if the people won’t check it out because I’ll be like “Oh shit man. I did it all that for fucking nothing!” (laughs). I really think that you have to check it out and be prepared for my new album which is going to be the heaviest album I’ve ever done. So, that’s the whole thing. I’m giving you this album now because it’s different and it take care Criss’ music. It’s basically a gift from me to the fans and the next record I’ll tell you what... you better strap your sit belts because the next record is going to be the heaviest thing I’ve ever done…

Jon OlivaNew solo record?
Nope, it’s going to be a JOP record. I’ve already have five songs written and let me tell you, none of them are happy (laughs). They are very dark. It’s very doomy, dark, heavy, gothic heavy like…even I said “Wow this is pretty fucking heavy”.

Are there any titles yet?
No, not yet. I’m calling them "Heavy 1", "Heavy 2"...

And which is the closest song you’ve ever written that perhaps sounds alike so we can get an idea?
I’m going to stay to the new stuff. Have you listened to the song "Big Brother"?

Yeah of course it’s a great song...
Well, "Big Brother" is a pop song comparing to the new stuff. (laughs) There’s a lot of down tuning and a lot of weird and dark, dark, dark feel.

And when you think will be ready?
Hopefully, after Christmas...

Jon OlivaThat’s great news Jon. So I’m guessing that you’re not going to tour for the new album.
I really don’t know. I have some offers to do stuff in November and December. I’m thinking about it, but I just want to see how the show would be like so I’m waiting to hear back from promoters…but I don’t know yet. Personally, I don’t really feel like I had to go out and tour for this record. I think that what this record is about stands on its own. It’s a gift, it’s time to buy some time until the next JOP record and to give the fans something that I think is essential. It’s the first Criss and Jon Oliva music ever written. To me that’s the most important. But nothing is final. Perhaps I do some shows so I’m waiting to hear back. But right this time I can’t say yes or no, because I don’t know yet.

Recently I wrote a Buyer’s Guide for Savatage discography. In your opinion, which are the two that you would call your masterpieces and which are the two that you would call cornerstones?
Well for masterpiece I’ll go with definitely "Streets" and I think "Poets And Madmen", to me those are the two best Savatage records.

"Poets And Madmen"?
If I had to say the two when Criss was alive I’d say "Streets" and "Gutter Bullet". After Criss passed away it’s "Handful Of Rain" and "Poets...".

Jon OlivaThis choice is taking me by surprise, because I think that "Dead Winter Dead" is by far your best album without Criss...
I'm very fond of that album, but for me personally it's "Handful Rain", because it was right after Criss passed and a lot of emotion went into those songs. And I think "Poets And Madmen" it was very important, because Zak left us. We'd write half of that album for Zak to sing and before we went to the studio Zak quits and I was left to sing to the whole album.  I remember spending months to do the songs, because we didn't want to re-record the in different keys. To me that was very challenging album and when I listen to it just has something about it that I love. I love the song "Surrender", I love the song "The Rumor" and of course "Morphine Child" which in my eyes is one of the greatest Savatage songs. Personally, for me those are the two albums after Criss that means the most and the ones while Criss was alive was "Gutter Ballet" and "Streets", because we had just done the "Hall Of The Mountain King" with Paul, which was our first with him and basically we were still learning each other. I'm very fond of that album as well but not as much as I am of the other two because with "Gutter Ballet" we knew Paul for about one and a half year and when we went to do "Gutter Ballet" there was a whole different vibe. It was like we could do anything. And then after we did "Gutter...", when we did "Streets" which was more like "Let’s go for it! Now we can do any-any-anything". That was, also, our first concept album, a story album and to me the songs on "Streets" are the best songs with Criss involved. To me, there are the strongest Savatage songs, except maybe "Hall Of The Mountain King", "Gutter Ballet" and "When The Crowds Are Gone" which I think are three of the best Savatage songs ever, but on "Streets" you've got "Jesus Saves", you've got "If I Go Away", "Believe"... I mean with Criss we were at our higher point in that album. And of course after Chris passed away it was obvious to me and Paul that we weren't going to replace him. You don't replace Criss Oliva, its' like the Beatles trying to replace John Lennon. You don't replace someone like him. You have to move forward and try different things and to me when Criss passed away we became the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Even though we were still called Savatage we became the TSO in training. The albums after Criss passed away were me and Paul moving to other places, knowing that we couldn't replace Criss and that we had to try different things. So, that's why we said let's stick with the story albums. And that's the road we started going down and if you think about it that's when we changed to TSO. Right after Criss died. We just didn't have the balls at that time to change the name. We were just trying to figure out what to do, were to go. How we would replace this guy ... But we couldn't. So, we had to move into a whole different world. It took us three albums to do that, but look us now. TSO is one of the biggest bands in the world. I mean we sell 45.000 tickets a day in America. We sell out Madison Square Garden a day show and a night show. It's insane and what people don't realize is that it's Savatage, dressed a little bit better, with an orchestra and with some other singers. It's all the same guys. It's Johnny, Chris Caffery, Al Pitrelli, Jeff's all the same fucking guys (laughs) and they don't get it. It's aggravating. It's something I call Savatux. I tell you, it's the same. It's Paul and me writing the music, I record in the album and the only thing I don't do is going out on the road with them, when they are doing these tours, because if I did that I would had no time to do my JOP stuff or the stuff for myself. That's why I sacrifice that.

Jon OlivaSo, why do you think TSO is such a successful band?
You know what? If I knew that, I would form a group just like it and become a manager. It's something that baffles us. We still can't figure it out. I think it's a fact that we keep the tickets prices affordable and that we put on a bigger show than any band in the world. Our light show is the biggest indoor light show in the world. Bigger than Pink Floyd, bigger than Paul McCartney, bigger than anybody. And we make it bigger every year. And I think that's what it is. The fact that the show is great, it has a lot of visuals, it has a good message, it's affordable - a husband and a wife can bring their two kids there for the show for 100$. You couldn't even buy a spot in front of the Coca Cola stand at a Rolling Stones concert for less than 350$. You know what I’m saying? We do that, we take the loss. We don't care about it. We take less money. That's why this thing keeps going since 1997 and now we sell out two shows a day in 20.000 sits sport arenas. 40.000 tickets a day that's not bad for ... Savatage (laughs). That's really what it is. It's Savatage with some extra musicians and that's all about it. It's Paul and Jon music just like in "Handful Of Rain". It's the same thing except the fact that the shows are phenomenal.  We got the best pyrotechnics and the guy that works for KISS and for us is saying that they don't even come close to what we do pyrotechnic-wise.

Whatever happened to Damond Jiniya?
He went to acting. I really don't have where he is. I haven't spoke with him for years, but the last thing I heard was that he went to an acting carrier and I don't know what happened since then...

Jon OlivaIt's a bit of a shame because he had such a strong voice...
To me he sounded like a more powerful Zak. We never had the chance to get him in a studio because everything went down when we got back to America and the 9/11 happened and that was changing everyone's life here in America. You know I ate breakfast at the World Trade Center 10 days before that happened and that was just a shock...9/11 was the stroke that broke the camel’s back as far Savatage goes, because we were stuck in California, we couldn't get to our families we didn't know what was going on, we didn't know if there was going to be more planes attacking. We didn't know what the fuck was going on and we couldn't leave. We were parked at the LAX airport and they had it barricaded and we couldn't leave. I think that for Johnny, especially for Johnny Middleton, Al Pitrelli and myself that was the time when we said "What the fuck? this is so fucked up" and I knew that Savatage were over. Considering that TSO was selling at the time 100 to 1 against Savatage. We sold 9.000.000 copies of our first TSO record and the last Savatage record sold something like 50.000 records. So, there is a big difference between nine millions and fifty thousands (laughs). We were looking to each other and said "What the fuck are we doing?". And that was when we decided that we had to give the Savatage thing the fall run. We gave the best years of our lives, 24 years and you now what? It turned out that the fans didn't show up. If we were selling a million Savatage records, Savatage would never, never broke up. If we were selling 30 thousand tickets in Europe, Savatage wouldn't have broken up. If you have a band that plays for 300-400 people every night, but you can have a band that can play in front of 40.000 people every day what you're gonna do? I think you’d say “Let's go to the 40.000”. And that's what we did. Savatage fans can be pissed about that, but I don't care because if they were in my position they would do the same fucking thing. I have a wife, I have children, I have a family, I have a mother and a father I have to take care. I'm not 18 years old anymore, I have responsibilities. You do your job and let’s say you take 100€ per a week. If I call you up tomorrow and say "You know my friend, if you quit your job right now I'll hire you to do the same job but I'll pay you 1000€ per a week" are you honestly going to look me in the face and say "No, I stay with the 100€ a week"? No! You are going to say "See ya...I'm going to the 1.000 per week". If you had family and kids what the fuck you would do? You were going for the money Jack! Because, that what is all about.

Jon OlivaPerhaps the Savatage fans want to see the band back together even if that was for a few farewell shows.
I'll tell you what. I'll put something out to you right now. I love Savatage more than any fan in the world. They were my life. I started it and I finished it. But I'll tell you get someone who would say to me "Jon I will give you 1.000.000 € to put Savatage together and come and play some concerts and I'll be there in two weeks. But, I'm sure that you are not going to found that person. TSO provides a living for all the guys from Savatage. It's doing great, it's one of the biggest bands in the world, it’s still the same guys writing the songs and it's just a different name. And what pisses me of and frustrates me the most is that people will not let go that name. It's me and Paul behind everything after Criss died. What's the difference? Because, we changed the name to make it more accessible here in America? And look what happened. We put out that song from "Dead Winter Dead" in America under the name Savatage in 1994. It sold 30.000 records. The next year we released it, the same song, we didn't even remixed it, we just change the cover and the name and it sold 9.000.000 fucking records, because of the name change. So what you gonna do? You're going back to the dog with one leg or are you going to run with the greyhound? We are doing anything but trying to take care of our families and keep us alive in the music business. If we've got something that popular and do it that well why do I want to stop it or do something to damage it in order to make a couple thousands people happy? It's not that we don't love Savatage. We love them more than anybody. It's just life. Taking care of your family comes before Savatage. I don't feel bad about that at all; I feel I did the right thing for my family to take care the people I love. And I love all the Savatage fans, don't get me wrong. I'm just telling you guys, if you were in my position you'd had done exactly the same thing with what I did and if someone look me in the eyes and tell me that he have done things differently, then he is a liar.

Jon OlivaDo you consider doing something with Dr Butcher again?
I talked about it with Chris Caffery, but again it comes to time and we don't have the time to do it. We’d love to do that, I had a great time doing that, so that's not something out of the question and could very possibly happen in the next years.

How Jon Oliva spends his time when he is not playing or writing music?
I don't know, cause I never stop doing music. I may go for swimming in my pool and that's all about it. Now, to be honest with you I was never not-involved with music. I'm always writing and I'm always doing things, so I never said that I would stop doing music for two or six months. That has never happened to me. I don't know how to answer that.

Are you listening any music and if so what albums or bands?
I listen to classics from Beethoven to The Beatles, to Metallica, to Savatage. I'm listening to anything, but I like variety. I think that The Beatles is what I listen to the most. They still keep amazing me. All the sounds they made in a 4 or 8 track recording still baffles my mind. I studied their albums trying to figure out how the fuck did they do this on only 4 tracks. I use more than 4 tracks for the half of the drum set and these guys recorded "Sgt Pepper" in 4 tracks and I'm listening to it and I go like "Holy shit, what the fuck is in that?". So, I'm listening to them the most, mostly as an educational thing. Trying to figure out how you can do so much and use so many sounds and incorporate so many different feelings and vibes and only have 4 or 8 tracks to do it with. But still I don't get it, I don't know how the fuck they did it (laughs). It really bothers me that I can't figure it out...but I will. The day before I die I’ll say “I FIGURED IT OUT” and then bam… [editor: Jon acts like it’s the last thing that happens to him in this life and starts laughing]

Jon OlivaThe Greek fans are waiting for you to come and visit us. Is there any possibility for this?
Yes, there's always that possibility. I was to come last summer, but they were burning shit all over the place, so I thought that probably wasn't a good idea to get to Greece at that time (laughs). I'll be honest with you. You were in the middle of a political situation that scared me off during the last tour. I had the opportunity to come there, but I was scared to do that. I told you earlier, I love the Greek fans who have been so loyal to me and so beautiful and wonderful and I felt really bad I couldn't come back there. I have a couple very good friends in Greece. Little John...What the hell is the name of his band? God damn it...

Need is the name of John's band?
Yeah, yeah, Need. I called him "The junior mountain king". He called and said “Jon it’s really bad here”. And I felt bad for him, because I became friends with his little group of friends and I was sad not being able to go there. I’ll see how things are going. As I said before I have some offers and I just have to sit down here for the next weeks and see what is best for me to do and what is safe. I don't want to come in Greece and have a problem. I want to come there and enjoy myself. Except don't feed me up the booze anymore.

Ok Jon, thank you very much for your time, it's been really an honor talking to you.
It's been an honor to talk to you as well sir.